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20 Jul 2023

Credit cards are a double-edged sword. Some think they induce spending of future income and cause one to be mired in debt. However, when used appropriately, credit cards can also be useful wealth management tools. Here are some smart tips to make credit cards work for you:

1. Number of credit cards held

27% of Hong Kong respondents reported feeling stress due to debt repayment, the Fidelity Global Sentiment Survey1 reveals. Paying off high-interest credit card debt can make individuals feel suffocated. It is advisable to utilise credit cards wisely to prevent us from falling into any debt crisis, so how many credit cards are enough?

As a rule of thumb, two to three credit cards should cover one’s daily needs. Having too many credit cards can be a hassle. As credit card debt has to be repaid monthly, and each card may have a different repayment date, missing payment for a card results in high service charges and interest. If cardholders forget to request a waiver, they are also subject to annual fee payments.

2. Pay off your debt in full and on time

As credit card interest rates can be as high as 30% - 40%, missing or delayed payment of a bill can lead to exorbitant financial expenses and overdue fines, which also affects one’s credit rating.

Obviously, the wise thing to do is to note down the due date on your calendar after receiving your monthly statement. You can also take advantage of autopay services or set an electronic reminder on your phone to avoid missing a payment. To make credit cards work, one needs to be disciplined and pay credit card charges every month. If you lack the funds to do so, pay the outstanding debt as soon as possible since interest arising from delay of payment often gets accumulated and becomes a significant sum of money.

3. Use your credit limit sensibly

The bank determines your credit limit according to your income and credit history. You should spend within your means and use your credit limit sensibly. Request the bank to raise your credit limit only when your income is high enough and your finances are sound.

Credit limit usage should be maintained at 30-35%, as spending higher than this level can cause banks to think you’re in financial trouble, which hurts your credit score. In other words, the less the credit limit is used, the higher is one’s credit score.

Take a credit card with a limit of HK$10,000 as an example. If you spend HK$7,000, then you’ve used 70% of your limit, which could drag down your credit score. However, if you have two credit cards both with credit limitation of HK$10,000, then each with a spending of HK$3,500, limit used on each card is only 35%, which improves your credit score.

4. Get out of debt with a balance transfer programme

Some people may choose to pay their credit card debts with another credit card when they face a shortage of funds. When credit card A is due and required to pay, the cardholder pays with credit card B. Then the dues on credit card B are paid off with credit card C, and so forth. However, the debt remains unpayable and the cardholder continues to owe money.

Balance transfer programmes can be helpful in managing one’s credit card dues since amounts payable against different cards can be consolidated into a loan with a lower interest rate. These programmes generally provide a longer repayment period and a higher loan amount, making them suitable for paying off credit card balances. The repayment period of some programmes can be as long as 72 to 84 months, with an amount equivalent to 18-21 times the monthly salary of the borrower, which is longer and larger than typical individual instalment loans.

Fidelity Global Sentiment Survey’ s data collection, research, and analysis for the above markets were completed in partnership with Opinium, a strategic insight agency. Data collection took place between August 2022 and September 2022. The sample consisted of 20,000 respondents (1,000 respondents came from Hong Kong) with the following qualifying conditions: Aged 20-75; Either they or their partner were employed full-time or part-time; A minimum household income of: Australia: A$45,000 annually; China: RMB 5,000 monthly; Hong Kong: HK$15,000 monthly; USA: US$20,000 annually; Canada: CA$30,000 annually; UK: £10,000 annually; Mexico: $4,500 MXN monthly; Ireland: €20,000 annually; Germany: €20,000 annually; Netherlands: €20,000 annually; France: €20,000 annually; Italy: €15,000 annually; Spain: €15,000 annually; Japan: 3m yen annually; Brazil: R$1,501 monthly; India: 55,001 annually; Singapore: SGD$2,000 monthly.


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